a look at our rights
How I View The Internet

The Internet
The Internet is a vast network of networks and is the largest network in the world.  The Internet is a borderless technology used to share and disseminate information worldwide.  And since information is power, I believe (and fear) whomever gains control over the content on the Internet will become very powerful.
     Because of its unprecedented scale and its far-reaching connections crossing borders around the world, I have serious doubts about whether or not any controls can actually be placed on the Internet.  That is, except for the protocols and standards used to move information about the world, I feel it will be rather difficult, if not near impossible, to place any controls on the information itself.
     I think the textbook's author said it best, "As the connections to more and more parties expand exponentially, control weakens."  Since there is little or no control of information on the Internet at present, I feel, at best, it will be extremely difficult to apply any type of control upon it now or in the future.
    Like most users, I enjoy the present freedoms intrinsic to the Internet.  I believe if these freedoms were suddenly, or even gradually taken away, a clash between the two different standpoints would surely ensue and result in the weakening of the Internet.
     If the Internet was the possession of just a single country, then I could see controls being placed on it, but it's not and therein lies the problem.  However, that hasn't stop countries from applying their own restrictions or constraints on networks within their borders.
     For example, a 1994 French law requires all public advertisements and information services based in France to be publish in French (Leibowitz).  This includes Web pages published in France.  A French branch of Georgia Tech found this out when they were sued because their Web site was only in English.
     Another example is China.  Chinese officials as well as foreign investors look forward to e-commerce and the Internet in China.  However, in an attempt to keep a tight grip on information within its borders, China restricts "access by its citizens to overseas pornographic websites as well as to foreign news sources" (Michaels).
     The Internet will surely evolve over the next ten or twenty years, and it will not be what we know today.  So in short, countries can and will place restrictions or constraints on content and access to the Internet, but I don't believe they can or will reach the vastness of the Internet at large.

Freedom of Expression On the Internet
 by Carmen Tassone

don't believe the Internet should be regulated, nor for that matter, do I believe it can be regulated. The First Amendment of US Constitution gives US citizens the right to free speech, and I believe it would be unconstitutional for the US Congress to pass a law that would limit this right in anyway. To me, that would include any restrictions imposed on the Internet.  Besides, the Internet is global, and no one government owns it or is in control of it. 
     And the US Supreme Court agrees. When the Communications Decency Act (CDA) was passed into law with the Telecommunications Bill of 1996, it was challenged almost immediately. According to Ira Glasser, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the CDA "criminalized all sorts of speech that would never have been criminalized before" (Quittner). The American Civil Liberties Union defines "freedom of expression" as:

Freedom of speech, of the press, of association, of assembly and petition--this set of guarantees, protected by the First Amendment, comprises what we refer to as freedom of expression. The Supreme Court has written that this freedom is "the matrix, the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom." Without it, other fundamental rights, like the right to vote, would wither and die (ACLU).

     I'm not, nor have I ever been a member of the ACLU, but it pleases me to know watchdog groups like the ACLU are looking out for our civil liberties and are keeping the actions on the Hill in check. The US Constitution prescribes the powers of the three branches of our government, but in its first Ten Amendments, our Bill of Rights, the US Constitution prescribes the forth--the power of the People.
     When President Clinton penned the CDA into law, it was up to the people to flex their right and appeal to the courts, specifically the US Supreme Court, that this Act was unlawful. With the ACLU and American Liberties Association leading the way, the Supreme Court was swayed by the will of the people and decided, "...while disagreeing about some issues in the case, unanimously concluded that reducing online communication to a safe-for-kids standard is unconstitutional. 'The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society,' wrote Justice John Paul Stevens, 'outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship'" (Quittner).
     I do fear, however, the US Congress will make additional attempts in the future to place some, possibly even justifiable, constraints on the Internet. I feel this is inevitable, but this sense of duty by the "powers that be" will only destroy the intended freedom of expression we hold dearly today, especially on the Internet.
     There is little doubt in my mind that the Internet conveys messages its creators could not have conceived or had ever intended, but I think we need to learn how to take the good with the bad. Every aspect of the Internet is now so intertwined, I believe the only way to rid the bad would require the removal of the good as well. To me, I don't believe we can have one without the other.
You violate our rights by over-exercising yours!     In the case of the Internet, I don't believe censorship is the answer either. To me, the Internet is a representation of our own society, of our own global-self. Everything we believe in and everything we stand for is entwined in the freedoms found on the Internet. Although we may not like what a person expresses, we as Americans do not have the right to infringe upon his or her Constitutional right to do so, as he or she has none upon us. I believe it's just a matter of following our own moral compass, knowing no one has the right to tell us which way to go, on or off the Internet.

 Works Cited:
          ACLU. "Freedom of Expression." The American Civil Liberties Union. 1997. Online: Available: http://www.aclu.org/library/pbp10.html. 16 February 2000.

          Leibowitz, Wendy. "Suits-a-Rama: The Virtual World Gets More Litigious-and Weird." The National Journal. 1996. Online: Available: http://www.ljx.com/tech/wendy/wendy16.htm. 14 February 2000.

          Michaels, R. "New Medium, New Rules - China takes a hard line on Internet discourse." Asiaweek. 2000. Online: Available: http://cnn.com/ASIANOW/asiaweek/technology/2000/0211/tech.internet.html. 15 February 2000.

          Quittner, Joshua. "Unshackling Net Speech." AllPolitics. 1997. Online: Available: http://cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1997/06/30/time/cda.html. 16 February 2000.